The front-end of Powell Pharmacy in Powell, Ohio doesn’t look like your typical pharmacy. Most of the front-end space is occupied by dietary supplements, along with other items that are part of the preventative pharmacy practice model that Emlah Tubuo, PharmD has created. Not to mention the friendly and helpful staff who greet every patron who walks through the door.
Emlah is originally from Cameroon West Africa. She arrived to the United States by way of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago with $300 in her wallet and a dream to help people understand and improve their health. She would go on to graduate from the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy in 2010, and not long after open her own independent pharmacy. She always knew she wanted to do more for her patients than what could be offered from a pharmacy chain organization.
"People want health. When they come to the pharmacy, they’re looking for more than a prescription. I believe that as pharmacists we’re in a great place with our clinical skills to be able to help people. That’s what I wanted to achieve with Powell Pharmacy and Emlah Naturals [her private-label supplement line], to look at health as a whole."
Emlah's assessment is supported by the numbers—40% of pharmacy revenue is from nutrition and wellness programs and products.
It’s All About the Patient
In keeping with the welcoming vibe of the pharmacy front-end, Emlah and her team maintain a patient-focused approach. The conversation begins with the patient’s primary health concern and evolves from there. Emlah and her team also implemented the Pharmace Replete Program to teach patients about drug-induced nutrient depletion and supplements that can help fill nutrient gaps.
"Our business has grown significantly by word of mouth. We cared for a client who had suffered from severe gut issues for several months and once her issues were resolved, she literally referred her entire street and several of her girlfriends, many of whom are now clients of ours," says Emlah. "Our community needed us, the education the kindness and the mindset connection in these crazy times. [Our pharmacy] goes beyond the product alone."
In addition to patient testimonials, Emlah credits a strong team dynamic for the pharmacy's success. Each team member understands the "why" behind the pharmacy mission and has a voice in creating initiatives and programs offered to patients. Emlah partners
with her Ortho Molecular Products Account Executive, Kara Wackerly, to host "Koffee with Kara" educational sessions. These are fun learning opportunities for team members to gain a deeper understanding of nutritional and functional medicine topics
and dietary supplement formulations.
Flexibility is the Name of the Game
Powell Pharmacy hasn’t always enjoyed smooth sailing—in fact, it faced the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic soon after opening its doors. Emlah and her team pivoted during the pandemic, providing their community with much-needed education and immunizations. They changed plans and strategies multiple times over the past few years, but the outcome of building immunity in their community remained the goal throughout the pandemic.
"Flexibility is the name of the game," says Emlah. "We truly enjoy holding hands with our patients on their health journeys and that is our 'why.' This has been a group project, with many failures along the way, but together we keep building."
Emlah’s Tips and Tricks for Independent Functional Pharmacies
Emlah and her staff have built a resilient pharmacy business that has become a pillar in her community. At the same time, she has also built strong relationships with local clinicians to further streamline and optimize the care she provides her patients. Her journey has taught her valuable lessons along the way. Here are Emlah’s top tips for independent functional pharmacists: